Increasing COVID-19 Cases in Roanoke Region Slowing Contact Tracing Efforts

Nov 17, 2020

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Roanoke region continues to climb.  And health officials say the surge is impacting their ability to investigate and contact trace.

The number of active COVID-19 cases in the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District jumped to 824 Tuesday morning.  That’s 150 more than the week before, according to Dr. Molly O’Dell.  The number of outbreaks increased to 37, up from 34 last week.  "Because we have so much substantial community spread now, we have a larger and larger number of people who have no idea where they got it," O'Dell said on a weekly conference call with reporters.

Credit CDC

O’Dell says the surge is impacting the ability of health officials to do contact tracing and disease investigation.  Doctors also don’t have time to provide detailed notes about individual cases.  "We are asking the public to help with self-identifying contacts," O'Dell said.  The health department has a worksheet on its website that explains how to notify your contacts.

O’Dell also says more people using the health department’s COVIDWISE app would give quicker notice about potential exposures.

Thirty additional deaths were added in the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District over the past week, bringing the total to 126.  O'Dell said all were the result of death cerficate reconciliation over the past 30 days. 

The number of hospitalizations is slightly lower at 74.  The health district reported 86 hospitalizations last week.

O'Dell said the case investigators are seeing an increasing number of cases related to religious services, weddings and funerals.  She also cautioned businesses to carefully consider in-person training events, which have also been responsible for an increasing number of cases.

Hospitalizations Still Hitting Records in SW Virginia and NE Tennessee

The hospital system that serves parts of Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee continues to see record numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Ballad Health reported 253 hospitalized COVID patients Tuesday.  It’s the fourth straight day of record numbers. The positivity rate in Ballad’s 21 county service area is now over 19-percent.

Centra Health Bracing for Rise in Cases

As of Tuesday, Centra Health is treating 35 COVID-19 patients. Eight of those patients are in the ICU, with four individuals on ventilators.

Dr. Christopher Lewis is with Centra – which operates hospitals in the Lynchburg area and parts of southside. “Currently, I would say we are experiencing a rise in COVID admissions and hospitalizations," he says.

"We basically see waves of comings and goings of more COVID patients coming in and then that falls off some. That has been essentially since the beginning of the pandemic.”

He says the system’s all-time high of COVID patients at one time was 45 back in August.

Centra officials say the health system has also volunteered to be a vaccine distribution center once one becomes available.